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Clair de lune for violon and piano

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La Tombelle dedicated Clair de lune to the Cuban violinist Rafael Diáz Albertini (the stimulus for Saint-Saëns’s Havanaise), who was a regular visitor to his salon. Nevertheless, his piece is devoid of any trace of exoticism. It presents no great technical difficulty, and is addressed to the willing amateur more likely to be able to play these few pages than a large-scale sonata. Its title bears witness to the penchant of French composers for crepuscular ambiences conducive to sentimental confidences. It is no coincidence that Verlaine used the title ‘Clair de lune’ for one of the poems of his Fêtes galantes, a text frequently set to music, notably by Debussy, who used the same title for the third movement of the Suite bergamasque for piano. The cover of La Tombelle’s score, published in 1889 by the Société anonyme d’édition mutuelle de musique, shows the moon shedding its light on fleecy clouds, as if it were necessary to attract the eye first before appealing to the ear. At an Andante tempo, the rocking 12/8 rhythm establishes a dreamy atmosphere. The violin sings over the swaying figuration of the piano, initially underpinned by a tonic pedal. Then the expression becomes more passionate, even tense, an evolution accompanied by modulations into the minor. The piece ends with a recurrence of the opening melody and a stabilisation on the tonic pedal, but with so many variants that it is difficult to speak of an ABA’ form. The ethereal conclusion vanishes in a puff of breath and beckons the listener to sleep.


publication date : 25/09/23

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